"I often used to wake the children in the middle of the night, to check if they remembered their new names even when half asleep. I would repeat over and over again that no one could know that we were Jewish."
Excerpt from the memoir of Branda Pluczenik-Schor from Krakow, who survived the Holocaust living under a false identity in Budapest together with her husband and daughters. Branda's parents were murdered. The story of the Pluczenik-Schor family is just one of the many stories presented in this exhibition.
Throughout the Holocaust period, in the shadow of persecution at the hands of the Nazi regime, Jews tried to save themselves and their families using forged papers that provided them with false identities.
For many, this was a daily battle for survival in a hostile environment, which required resourcefulness and the ability to adjust to constantly shifting circumstances. They lived in perpetual fear of all people and places, and made every effort to make themselves invisible and to fully embrace the customs of their surroundings. Mistakes were not an option. They memorized the Christian prayers, and were forced to renounce their religion and mother-tongue, often changing their hair color and trying to erase all signs of Jewish identity.
In many cases they were helped by non-Jews, some of whom were paid for their services. Others offered assistance for no monetary gain and at risk to their own lives, eventually being recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.
Jews were also helped by Jewish members of underground movements, who worked tirelessly on behalf of their brethren, finding them hiding places and food, and equipping them with forged documents including ID cards, birth certificates, food coupons and travel permits.
In this exhibition, there are 14 stories of Jews who survived under assumed identities all over Europe. In Eastern Europe – Poland, Lithuania, Hungary and Ukraine; in Central and Western Europe – Germany, France and the Netherlands; and in Southern Europe and the Balkans – Italy, Greece and Croatia.
The stories are based on documents from the Yad Vashem Archives, and material from Yad Vashem's various databases and collections: personal documents, testimonies, photographs, Pages of Testimony, artworks, footage, and more. The forged documents on display in this exhibition were donated to Yad Vashem by survivors and their families, and bring to light amazing stories of survival, determination, creativity, resourcefulness, courage and sacrifice.